In reading on empowerment, the key assumption in many of them is the form a person’s power takes. I can see how this happens. If you believe that money is the ultimate source of power, then you would assume that empowerment has to do with controlling amounts of money. If you believe control and influence over others is a source of power, then how much control and influence you have indicates how much power you have. Or personal autonomy: you may assume that the more control you have over your life, the more power you have. There are other forms of power as well, but you can see just from these three how someone could be seen as both empowered and powerless. You could be wealthy, but a recluse struck with a terrible disease. You could be poor individual, but have all the freedom you want and great influence over others around you and beyond. The poor individual and the wealthy recluse both are empowered and powerless, depending upon the lens you use to examine their lives.
There are tradeoffs we all make in these areas of empowerment. I might work a certain job because it gives me greater power over some aspects of my life while restricting me in others. Same with being a parent.
Everyone makes tradeoffs to achieve the power they need. You may not respect their choices, you may find the sacrifices they make to be wrong, and you may not see the power they seek as one that is worthwhile. Despite that, they are trying to gain some form of power over someone or something to achieve a greater good. They are empowered or becoming empowered to achieve that. We can disagree that their goals are not good ones, but we cannot say they are not empowered. If they are on the way to achieving what they want, they are empowered.